The versatility of their famous multi-use knives and the reliable precision of their cuckoo clocks and watches have given the Swiss a reputation as being one of the most innovative countries on the planet. This alpine country has a long tradition of developing products that help us in our everyday lives. Chemists and scientists from all walks of life have used their Swiss pragmatism repeatedly to churn out inventions that solve society’s needs. The spirit of Swiss innovation continues unto this day, nowhere else in Europe are there as many registered patents as in Switzerland. The list of Swiss inventions is long, and the stories behind them are fascinating.
Swiss innovations – Cellophane
Like so many great things, this Swiss invention was invented almost by accident. A swiss textile engineer Jacques E. Brandenberger was eating in a restaurant when a customer spilt his wine onto the tablecloth. Brandenberger pondered how convenient it would be if the cloth were covered in clear film, making it waterproof. He experimented with various ways of coating fabric with viscose but was unsuccessful. He discovered, however, that the plastic peeled off in a transparent sheet and the idea for cellophane was born! The Swiss must have a natural affinity for food packaging because another famous Swiss innovation was the use of aluminium foil as a protective layer for food by Alusuisse in 1924.
Swiss innovations - Swiss army knife
The most notorious Swiss invention must be the handy pocket-sized multi-tool, the Swiss army knife. In 1884, Swiss inventor Karl Elsener created the knife for the army who needed a foldable tool that could perform multiple functions like opening cans or disassembling a rifle. Today the pocketknives, complete with iconic red handle and small white cross, are recognisable for their utility and smart design the world over. A century later, the original company, Victorinox, produces over 15 million knives per year. Today’s knives include the initial features such as blades, corkscrews, scissors and toothpicks, but also modern Swiss innovations such as laser pointers, data storage and fingerprint scanners.
Swiss innovations - Speed Peeler
The Swiss Invention of the Y-shaped peeler is considered so iconic an example of Swiss design, that it featured on a postage stamp in 2004. It is beautiful in its simplicity. A one-piece aluminium handle with a perpendicular, pivoting steel blade with dual edges. It is used as a razor, shaving off an ultra-thin layer of skin with speed. Alfred Neweczerzal of Davos, Switzerland invented the Zena rex Peeler in 1947, and from there it found its way into millions of kitchen drawers all over the world.
Swiss innovations – Bobsleigh
Some bored English tourists first inspired the exciting, and dangerous, Olympic sport of bobsleigh in St Moritz. The hotel owner Caspar Badrutt observed them whizzing about on sledges through the icy streets and devised a plan to turn this innocent game into a proper sport. He built the first halfpipe run and hosted formal competitions in 1884. The Cresta Run remains the oldest in the world, has hosted two Olympic Winter Games and is still in use today. This Swiss invention has proved very successful for the country, who have won more Olympic medals in the sport than any other country.
Swiss innovations - Solar-powered aircraft
Swiss innovation continues to impact the world in modern times. Swiss engineer Bertrand Piccard dreamed of green technologies that would reduce our emissions and improve our quality of life. He knew that the public need to be inspired to make the changes necessary to ensure our planet’s energy and ecological future. People are drawn to an adventure, a challenge demonstrating alternative energy sources in a positive, stimulating way. Like his father, Jacques Piccard and his grandfather Auguste, he set out to accomplish the impossible. The first round-the-world flight powered solely by sunlight. Together with André Borschberg, he built the first solar-powered plane and circumnavigated the globe in 2016. Capturing the attention of the general public, future engineers and the key decision-makers alike.
Swiss innovations – Mundialz
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